Additionally, advocate for a carbon levy and dividend to provide a just transition that does not weigh on low-income families as we accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels.
Gary M. Stewart
Laguna Beach, California
Rethinking the gas infrastructure repair and replacement strategy
Sabrina Shankman’s article describes in detail the environmental red flag that economist Dorie Seavey’s report represents for the Gas Leaks Allies. The climate change emergency demands a re-examination of the current strategy for repairing and replacing gas infrastructure – a plan that will be exceeded by the scheduled time of completion, at a high and increasing cost to the public.
This report reveals the dangers and costs of the program in place and challenges all stakeholders to develop strategies that will support an economically viable transition away from fossil fuels and provide secure energy solutions for the future. For the health of our families, communities and our planet, a shift to cleaner sources of energy is essential. I count on The Globe to continue reporting on this critical issue that affects the health and well-being of all of us.
Consider switching to the geothermal energy network
Sabrina Shankman’s report of the failed gas system upgrade program only indirectly hints at technology that would provide carbon-free heating and cooling while providing gas utilities with a path to to come up.
This technology is grid geothermal heating and cooling, also known as geothermal micro-districts. The idea is that buildings in close proximity to each other, both commercial and residential, can share an infrastructure that harnesses the natural capacity of the soil for temperature regulation. Feasibility studies show that the efficiency achieved through networking would significantly reduce costs and reduce payback periods within reasonable time frames.
It is not that hard to imagine gas utilities making the transition from maintaining a gas distribution system to providing services for a geothermal energy network.
Gas utilities are currently benefiting from the work mandated by the GSEP, but the evidence is now available. This program fails to reduce net gas leakage to an acceptable rate. It is time to redirect some of the funds from this program towards geothermal to grid conversions.
Getting rid of the Commonwealth’s gas infrastructure is one of those things that seems impossible – until it isn’t.
Instead, focus on helping homeowners convert to renewable energy
The business model of utilities is perverse: they make money not by providing energy to customers, but by building infrastructure and passing the costs – with a healthy profit margin – onto their customers. Thus, gas companies are encouraged to exaggerate the need for new or rebuilt pipelines. And their plans are inconsistent with Massachusetts legal obligations to swiftly replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.
The Globe’s report on this important Gas Leaks Allies study makes it clear that taxpayers will be stranded with $ 20 billion in surcharges if these leaky pipelines are all replaced, and gas companies will be grappling with stranded assets.
Since heating homes with electric heat pumps is already cheaper than heating with methane, our resources should instead be focused on helping homeowners convert to renewable, non-polluting energy.
These rapidly changing climate goals can be intimidating
The article “Work on pipelines, climate goals at odds” reports that the abandonment of natural gas pipelines is under consideration.
In 2013, my oil furnace broke down, so I had to choose between a new oil, propane or natural gas burner. Luckily, a new pipeline had been installed along my street about a year or two earlier. Since natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than propane, I opted for a natural gas system, at a cost of almost $ 10,000. By following the annual cost of oil before, and then the annual cost of natural gas, I found that I was saving about $ 1,000 per year with natural gas rather than oil. Therefore, it would take around 10 years to recoup the investment and start saving on home heating costs.
Now the plan appears to be to get homeowners to switch to electric heating. First of all, many years ago, when I was looking to buy a house, I discovered that electrically heated houses must have about 6 inches of insulation in the walls, instead of the 3 or 4 inch standard, and that would still be expensive. My house is about 50 years old. What do owners like me do?
I’m concerned that climate goals are changing faster than homeowners can afford to participate.